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Despite New School, Beloved Downtown Pre-K Programs Remain in Huge Demand

LOWER MANHATTAN — Change is on the horizon for Lower Manhattan’s sought-after pre-K programs.

The new Peck Slip School, which launched its first two kindergarten classes last fall in temporary Tweed Courthouse space as its 712-seat building was under construction, will run two half-day pre-K classes this fall — one in the morning and one in the afternoon — with 18 students each.

The additional 36 seats are a boon to a neighborhood known for quality schools but an overflow of students.

In 2012, four highly regarded Downtown schools received  a total of 1,776 applications — 91 more than the previous year — for just 194 pre-K seats.

Local parents say a Peck Slip pre-K is an exciting prospect for a school that’s quickly built a strong reputation, but the good news is tempered by the partial loss of a beloved pre-K program at P.S. 276, the city’s first “green” school.

DNAinfo.com New York ranked sought-after public pre-K programs based on their 2012 admission rates.
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Celine Huang

Terri Ruyter, the Battery Park City school’s principal, reluctantly suggested slashing half of the popular school’s pre-K program this fall, and ending it completely the following year, to free up needed classroom space for the crush of entering kindergartners.

The Department of Education recently approved the proposal, leaving the school with two half-day classes of 18 students each in the fall, officials said.

Similarly, popular P.S. 234 in TriBeCa lost its pre-K program several years ago because of the need for more school seats for their kindergarten-to-fifth-grade classes.


The P.S. 276 pre-K cut is a tough blow for a program that in 2012 had 463 applicants for its 72 seats, according to DOE figures.

“We absolutely love the school’s pre-K,” said Tracie Basch, whose son Zachary is currently in the program. “He’s so happy to go to school each day — they’re playing and they’re learning.”

Basch, whose older son Sam — now a first-grader at P.S. 276 — also attended the pre-K, said she watched Sam become comfortable, and excited, about moving on to kindergarten thanks to the program.

“I think it’s been so integral to my sons’ education, it will really be a shame to lose the program,” Basch said. “The teachers are extremely dedicated — they really instill a love for learning,”

Parents have, for many years, had similar praise for P.S 89’s longtime pre-K teacher, Connie Ryan. In 2012, P.S. 89 was once again the area’s most popular program, with 502 applications for just 32 seats.

This fall, the school will continue to offer a morning and afternoon pre-K class, each capped at 16 students.

The area's other half-day pre-K, in the new Spruce Street School, had more than 400 students apply for its 72 seats in 2012.

The only Lower Manhattan school that offers a full-day public pre-K is P.S. 150 in TriBeCa. The tiny elementary school, which has just one class per grade, received more than 400 applications for its 18 pre-K seats in 2012. The program is known for its friendly, tight-knit atmosphere and focus on the arts.

Here are Downtown's noteworthy public pre-K programs:

P.S. 276, Battery Park City School, 55 Battery Place

Parents say they love the environmentally conscious green school's dedicated, hands-on pre-K staff, which makes the DOE's recent decision to cut half of its 72-student program an even greater loss to a community flooded with pre-K applications.

P.S. 150, TriBeCa Learning Center, 334 Greenwich St.

The tiny, highly regarded school receives hundreds of applications for its 18-student program, known for its tight knit atmosphere and focus on the arts. It's also Lower Manhattan's only full-day universal pre-K.

P.S. 397, Spruce Street School, 12 Spruce St.

Housed in an impressive new four-story brick school at the base of Frank Gehry's apartment tower near City Hall, the 72-student pre-K continues to grow in popularity. Along with well-liked pre-K teachers and a focus on interactive learning, the school's amenities, like its two-story auditorium and a roof deck with 5,000 square feet of outdoor play space, make it an attractive program.

P.S. 89, Liberty School, 201 Warren St.

Thanks to the school's beloved pre-K teacher, P.S. 89, which sits a few blocks away from the World Trade Center, has long been the area's most sought-after program.

P.S. 343, Peck Slip School, 52 Chambers St.

The much-needed Peck Slip School, which launched kindergarten classes in the fall of 2012 in temporary space located in Tweed Courthouse, will now be home to the neighborhood's newest pre-K. Parents and students have so far been happy with the school and have high hopes for the 32-seat, half-day pre-K program coming this fall.